|Here you can find useful tips and know-how about how to install and run a high quality music reproduction system.
These general tips are meant to aid you with improving your current system, regardless of its composition.
Put simply, if we can assist you in enjoying music even more, then that makes us happy too.
You can simply read the following articles or use the Navigator
hi-fi & records magazine / Wilfried Kress.
Among the most amazing discoveries in the history of Hi-End ranks the at first confusing realisation, that high quality Hi-fi components to do not necessarily behave like other electronic products. One simply plugs in a home computer and the gigahertz processor starts working regardless of where it is plugged in or which mains cable is being used (the same way a normal consumer uses his `off the shelf´ Midi system: unpack - attach -plays).
Whoever wishes to listen more exactly also has to realise that with high end equipment one buys "sound potential" to be fully implemented at home. The first recommendations based on experience did not help matters when things like the Linn theory suggested that record players also had a `sound´. Ideas from Ivor Tiefenbrunn, at the time held as madness, are today taken for granted in most high end circles.
The ABC of system installation has never reached this level of discussion. Moreover, many who have heard these tips before still treat the topic with some disregard and therefore give away substantial chances to increase their sound potential.
Ingo Hansen, founder of PHONOSOPHIE, estimates that these general guidelines have an awareness level of about 30% and that many system installation `bad habits´ have already crept in. Hansen has been preaching for many years, to customers and dealers alike, that this sort of carelessness can easily lead to a 30% loss in sound quality...
The entire German article can be downloaded here:
You can trust your ears - after all, you've been carrying them around for lifetime!
Hi-fi is participation, being there! A good system delivers all the information required. It presents a recording in such a way that the listener feels he is sitting in the same room the musicians are playing in. A listener who positions himself between the speakers and whistles, claps or clicks his fingers to the music should, ideally, feel as one with the performers. The stronger the feeling of belonging, the better the system.
Planning a system
Before starting with planning your system, you should be sure of one thing: what do you want? Do you want a one-off investment and unimpaired listening for many years? Do you want the maximum attainable? Do you want to lay the foundation stones of an absolute top system adding high-end components piece by piece? Do you want to improve your existing system? Is music really the centre of attention or is the fascination for technology the motive? In each case money is involved which, no doubt, you desire to invest meaningfully. Before you decide that, then settle on your strategy first. Even if it only concerns a single piece of equipment, PHONOSOPHIE dealers are pleased to assist you. Let us help you before you decide to buy so that you can then make a better investment. Our reward is that you maintain your enthusiasm for music and enjoy the listening experience. Sooner or later we hope you will be interested in our range of equipment of course. If not, we must be doing something wrong!
In the following you will find a range of suggestions to considerably improve your existing system. Followed closely, these basic guidelines can apply to the optimization of every system.
Begin at the beginning: power. The entire system must be able to provide the maximum amount of energy in the shortest possible time. The `cleaner´ the power, the clearer the information reproduced. One can separate and follow it better.
The more stable the power provided per cycle, the more clearly can the musical information be brought forward, particularly the quiet phases, that are a part of every sound. The closer you can get to the musical happening, the more enjoyment and "live feel" yo will hear from your system.
The interaction of the components all of which are connected to the mains power supply has a major influence on the ultimate sound quality. As a result of this it is very important to be aware of the need to control the configuration and quality of construction of any power supply blocks used.
Also relevant to this topic, the greater the improvements made in the power supply chain, the more benefit to be gained in total. Paying attention to this area delivers huge benefits in terms of sound quality.
Each of the following measures brings you more musical enjoyment and moves you closer to the musical event. The cumulative effect of the changes will reward you far more than if you were to simply upgrade mid-range for high-end components.
Plan, if possible together your electrician, to install a dedicated spur from the house mains distribution. The cable used should have a diameter of at least 2,5 square millimetres (we also offer our own assortment of dedicated mains cable).
This form of tuning has a large influence on sound quality.
Currently only available for the German market our PH WALLSOCKET AG with silver contacts offer vast improvement over standard wall sockets especially when combined with other improvements mentioned here.
All the components in your system are connected to each other via the power supply forming a type of network. For this reason all should be connected over just one distribution box. Power distributors with metal housing, switches, filters and shielding are generally not recommended. Metal in the proximity of the current flow always influences the current dynamic: reciprocal induction effects can make the current slower-acting. Filters can also detract. In most cases nowadays, power supplies are of sufficient quality as to be mostly resistant to interference.
We suggest using plastic distribution boards with adequate cabling and solid contact strips inside. The quality of the contacts (live, neutral and earth) as well as the power connector plug are of equal importance.
Component power supply
The various sockets on a distribution block can `sound´ different. It is not unimportant therefore which piece of equipment is plugged in where. The first socket, as seen from the cable has the highest quality. Connect the piece of equipment which serves as your main source, your CD or record player. The second most important e.g. tuner in the second socket. The amplifier in the next available socket. If you have separate pre and power amps, then the pre amp first then the power amp(s). External power supplies are attached last.
Many power cables do not meet the requirements of good sounding Hi-fi components. Bad cabling can have a negative effect on bass frequency reproduction and dynamic. Use of shielded power cables is not recommend. If your components are fitted with IEC-plug then the original cable can be replaced with a different one. Use plugs with solid contacts including that for earthing. High quality cable has a larger diameter and is directional.
Do not underestimate the influence of power blocks. Correct cables and distribution increase the dynamics and contribute to your music enjoyment. The dynamic and transient response increase considerably and the performers move one step closer to you in your listening room.
Plug polarity & phase
The phase position of a mains connection can have an influence of the sound. For two-pin German plugs it does make a difference which way a plug is connected. Some manufacturers mark the `live´ pole of their equipment, in which case a phase proofing tool is enough to locate the correct pole in the socket. There, where it indicates, is the correct connection. If your equipment is not marked in any way, ask your dealer to measure the phase and mark it.
The way a system is positioned can have a considerable influence on sound quality. The surface on which your hi-fi sits also plays a large role in the performance of the system as a whole.
Many devices require absolutely horizontal positioning.
Although it is not possible to prevent the casing from being affected by airbourn sounds, there are ways of ensuring that the disturbance they create is kept as small as possible.
Simply stacking components on top of each other can lead to the unnecessary loss of sound quality. The individual power supplies can influence each other and resonance can be transferred over the individual casings. The best way is to use a suitable rack. Alternatively, the equipment should be placed as far apart from each other as possible. Sensitive equipment like CD players and record decks should not be placed too near to integrated amplifiers, pre & power amps or power supplies.
Set up your record player and CD player absolutely horizontally. Use a spirit-level and the sound you hear will reward you!
Equipment without Racks
The optimum mounting for a high end system is a suitable rack system. For those who wish to stay with their current system can go along way to improving the sound by using the PHONOSOPHIE Rack system. Where rack mounting is not possible or desired, then avoid the use of cabinets, wall cabinets or shelving mounted directly to the wall (with the exception of the PHONOSOPHIE Rack system with wall mounting and resonance diffuser). The result can be a massed coupling with the wall or cabinet material that can severely detract from the overall sound and swallow the liveliness.
The equipment should stand on a light and stable base so that oscillation cannot not multiplied or the energy stored in any way. Large mass under the components (thick sideboards, oak cupboards, sand filled constructions etc.) are equally as harmful as glass shelving. In many cases the use of our Controlboards can go along way to de-coupling equipment from tables and shelves.
Equipment on Racks
Ideally each piece of Hi-fi equipment should be positioned on its own rack or table. In practice this is not usually possible and is mostly hindered by the different cable lengths required. However devices arranged one above the other with a larger gap between offer a better acoustic solution
If many devices have to be accommodated, then two smaller towers are preferable to a single large one. The rack itself should have a stable connection to the floor and should not wobble or twist. Three legged racks stand better than four legged systems and are easier to adjust.
Some rack systems allow themselves to be stacked in which case you should be extremely careful that the modules sit firm and steady upon each other.
In the case of PHONOSOPHIE Racks: The distance between the modules should be as small as possible, without the upper and lower leg tubes touching each other. PHONOSOPHIE Racks are fitted with a coupling that transfers resonance from the upper to the lower module. Adjust the Spikes of the upper module carefully and tighten them. The correct mounting (and depth of the Spikes) can be checked by pushing a piece of paper in the gap between the tubes. On each leg the paper should be free to touch the Spike inner all the way around, without being hindered by the upper or lower tube. The distance should be as small as possible and the same for each leg.
Loudspeakers and racks should ideally stand on Spikes. This method provides the appropriate stability and the correct coupling. Place components horizontally (using a spirit level). The Spikes should be screwed in as far as possible, the lock nuts tightened firmly and stability checked - loudspeakers, stands and rack should be rock solid. Lifting one side slightly then release it should not result in any form rocking, not even a small amount. If there is some movement, then begin again. The time spent in the setting and adjustment of Spikes can have a positive influence on the reproduction. The utmost care pays off in the end!
Wood or Stone floor
If you have timber, parquet or stone flooring, do not use coins under the Spikes. This prevents their proper function and hinders resonance transmission and much precision and dynamic gets lost. Use our Rounded Spikes. They are not only easier on your flooring but bring added advantages with them, namely reducing floor to stand resonance transmission which can slow a system down as resonance begins to accumulate. The rounded end of the spike reduces the puncturing in wood caused by normal spikes and protects the floor at the same time, improving the system `speed´. PHONOSOPHIE Rounded Spikes are simple replacements for the standard types. For the PHONOSOPHIE Rack system a combination of the Adjustable Spike and the Rounded Spike are available.
If you posses metal racking then we have a small trick for you: earth the entire rack by attaching a cable between the rack and the earth contact of the pre amplifier. Thus a Faraday cage effect is formed around the system, HF disturbances are held effectively at bay. The effect is astonishing.
Order of placement
The various positions in the rack play a vital role in the overall sound and is therefore important when considering which order the individual components are placed. The lowest shelf has the best sound, the next shelf up has the second best and so on. Which component in which position? Simple, the further forward a component is placed in the chain, the better it will sound, and so ultimately the entire system can profit.
Meaning that in the lowest position comes that to which we listen to the most, usually the CD player. (A record player should ideally be on a separate dedicated stand).
In the next best position should come the pre or power amp.
There are however exceptions: in complex systems the external power supplies always come first, then amplifiers. If at all possible, the pre amps and source components should be as far away from large power supplies and then arranged as above.
These placement guidelines offer the best acoustic results. Admittedly a CD player in the lowest position does not necessarily represent ease of use and if the result is more back breaking than satisfying then feel free to experiment a little!
The larger the usable signal, the greater the flow of information and the closer the performer or instrument stands in the audio field.
Current, low frequency and loudspeaker cable are extremely important to the sound of a system as they can influence the real signal and detract from it hugely. Further they can provide for an excellent source to be presented at its optimum.
Besides the quality of the cable itself, the careful laying thereof is plays a large role in the overall result. Long runs of sensitive cable parallel to power cables can slow down their finer qualities. Cables should be laid with plenty of loose `play´ and should not be weighted or stretched in any way.
Tip: When all your cables have been laid according to our recommendations, we suggest you unplug and plug all connectors every 6 months. This applies to signal, loudspeaker and power cables as well as mains and equipment power plugs. The reason being that the surface on every connector changes due to chemical reaction where current flows. Unplugging and plugging is the simplest way to clean the contacts. We do not recommend the use of cleaning fluids as they tend to leave residue which leads to just having to clean more often!
Lay the system power cables first (unless you are installing loudspeakers for the first time, in which case then lay those cables first). Begin with the component furthest away from the mains socket. Try to find a way or path that allows you to run the cables at right angles and then in the direction of the distribution point. This path or area behind your system should be kept for power cables only and ideally they should not come into contact with signal, loudspeaker or other cables. Nor other non-system power cables! The cables should run in straight lengths without forming loops. Consider also the order of placement.
Power cable (External supplies)
If you are using external Power Supplies for your system, lay the power connecting cables (not the mains cables!) of your external power supply next. These should lie on their own path and have as little contact with other cables as possible. If overlapping cannot be avoided, then arrange the cables in such a way that they cross and do not run parallel to other cables nearby.
Signal cable is very sensitive and should run without contact from source and end component. Where this is not possible then crossing the cable runs is preferable over running parallel. Here also straight cable runs without loops are recommended. Where possible RCA connectors should be avoided: they may be the established standard for most Hi-fi equipment but bring a number of disadvantages. The separated earthing they provide is not ideal and has a negative effect on the noise ratio. RCA connectors can also create reflection that can detract from the real signal in the cable. We recommend BNC cable with RCA adapters to reduce this - give it a try!
Both cables should be of the same length. If more than 2 channels are required then the left and right cables should also always be the same length. The cable length influences the way a power amplifier works, and therefore requires the same working conditions for both channels. Avoid loops in the speaker cable and overlaps on mains cables especially when laying them. If this is unavoidable then crossing the cables is preferable to long, parallel runs. Avoid cable lengths of less than 3 meters, even if your system does not `need´ longer cables. When using PHONOSOPHIE loudspeaker cable, we suggest a minimum of 4 meters in order to bring the power amps to their recommended loading
Even if your speakers are fitted with Bi-Wiring terminals, do not cable your speakers in Bi-Wiring mode. Our experience shows that the disadvantages outweigh the advantages in practice. If you cannot or do not wish to use Bi-Amping then replace the terminal bridge with our Bi-Wiring adapter to rule out Bi-Wiring terminal problems entirely.